Kaji Warriors: Shifting Strength is a science fiction/fantasy novel by Kelly A. Nix. Kaji Warriors is the first book that I have read by Kelly A. Nix and when I first read the blurb I was excited and eager to dive into this book. I am an avid reader of science fiction novels and the picture that the author paints piqued my interest. A young girl, raised by her father, determined to be strong and prove herself. Then the author teases that Atae has a secret that she is trying to keep hidden so you can guess that I was eager to discover this secret and understand better what it all could possibly mean. So, of course, I jumped at the opportunity to read this book.
When I first started this book, I’m not going to sugar coat it…I was disappointed. The prologue doesn’t pull me into the story. It piques my interest, but it also struggles at the same time. It gives me two characters – one who is unknown and remains so, and the other who is disclosed later in the prologue. I was like…okay, the prologue is a bit muddy, but the first chapter will make up for that. Once again, I was disappointed. It seemed like the author struggled a bit with getting the story going because it took me a few chapters to get into the book. I honestly began to worry that I’d not like the storyline after such a promising blurb. I kept thinking…maybe the author should have written this book in a different “person” instead of 3rd so that I could get into it better. I decided to keep pushing forward in the hopes that the book would start gaining traction and I am glad that I didn’t give up.
This book, after a few chapters, does get interesting. When it gets interesting the story really takes off and I can very easily tell that the author has found her stride and that she’s off to the races. Atae is an interesting character, but she is flawed. As she is the main character of the story I find myself contemplating her quite often. She has been raised and trained that Kaji are strong. Strength comes from more than just physical strength, so I find myself at times getting annoyed with her when I find her lacking in certain areas. Apparently paying attention is an issue for her. There are certain scenes and situations that she finds herself in that I felt that if she had paid attention she could have avoided those particular embarrassing moments. I say this because you can tell by her father’s reactions at times that he’s disappointed in her lack of knowledge which leads me to believe he taught/told her at one time, but she failed to pay attention/grasp the information so it was…unfortunately…lost. Another thing I found myself being annoyed with her about is her own arrogance. Yes, she has her moments of humility and shame, but just like her Prince she has her moments of arrogance, and the moments are highly unwarranted. She praises herself when it wasn’t really HER who overcame or accomplished.
While this story has a variety of alien creatures, the main focus is the Kaji – purebreds and hybrids. I really like her packmate, Jeqi. You’ll rarely find Jeqi slipping in the observation department and, of course, this is reflected in the story as at the Academy Jeqi is the top of her class. There is a variety of characters in this book, but the author never gets distracted by focusing too much on the ones who aren’t connected to the main character, Atae. Of course, since she has classmates we see them sprinkled throughout in what I feel is an appropriate amount.
This book focuses on two major events – the Tournament and then the Gridiron. Atae is eager to enter the Gridiron, but she has to succeed at the Tournament first. The Tournament is a thrilling part of the storyline and I love that it is broken up into parts and that it doesn’t all happen at once. It definitely has a Hunger Games theme and thrill to it which keeps you on the edge of your seat. There were moments of where I wondered who the author was going to work things. Where the characters going to come out on top every time? Or would they have to grit their teeth and really work hard for their victories? Well, all I’ll say is this…I was not disappointed. Now! This book DOES end on a bit of a cliffhanger. Not a major one, but I feel that it is a cliffhanger nonetheless. The reason why I say this is because of the set-up concerning the Gridiron. We get the Tournament in this book, but not the Gridiron, so that leads me to believe another book is coming.
I am deciding to rate this book 5 out of 5 stars. While the beginning of this book was sluggish and a struggle to get through, once the book gains traction it is hard to put down and I devoured it like it was a tasty treat. I loved the blending of the characters and even the hints of a romance that may not be allowed to continue. I am eagerly anticipating the next book in this series and I truly hope that I won’t have to wait too long. This author has a lot of potential and I can’t wait to see where she takes these characters next.